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The farewell function organised for outgoing Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, promised to be an interesting affair, and it did not fail on that count. In the backdrop of the rising chorus against judges opting to take up post-retirement jobs, Attorney General KK Venugopal weighed in on the topic.
He observed that judges should be allowed to continue adjudication, given the breadth of their experience. Speaking at the event, AG Venugopal remarked,
“I do not agree to that idea that judges should not accept post-retirement jobs. Years and years of experience in judging would be thrown away one fine day by that.”
The AG’s observations arose in the light of a statement issued by the Bar Council of India (BCI) Chairman, Manan Kumar Mishra, two days earlier. The BCI Chairman had requested Chief Justice Misra to refrain from taking up any post-retirement jobs, following the lead of Justice (Retd.) Jasti Chelameswar and Justice Kurian Joseph.
Revealing his contrary view on the subject, AG Venugopal also proceeded to query,
“If judges do not take up or are not not allowed to accept post-retirement jobs, then how will tribunals function?”
AG Venugopal also observed that a salary increase for judges is required to attract good judges.
“Salaries of judges should be doubled or tripled if we want good judges.“
As for the contributions made by outgoing Chief Justice Dipak Misra, AG Venugopal placed special focus on the sheer number of judgments which the CJI authored in the last week of his tenure at the Supreme Court. The AG also highlighted CJI Misra’s contribution to gender justice.
“The number of judgments CJI Dipak Misra has written the last week is perhaps a record; time and again he has dealt with gender issues, he has been named ‘gender warrior’ by some newspapers.”
Having said that, the AG also welcomed the next Chief Justice’s vocal declaration to carry out measures to reduce case pendency in the Court. To tackle the issue, Chief Justice-designate, Justice Ranjan Gogoi had intimated at a seminar organised last week, that he had a plan to reduce case pendency. In view of this declaration, AG Venugopal observed,
“Legal justice delivery should be improved…glad that CJI Designate Ranjan Gogoi J. said that he will be trying to tackle pendency.“
As he concluded his speech, AG Venugopal also made a general observation that,
“If we cannot secure access to justice, Right to Life under Article 21 will be a mirage.”
AG Venugopal’s view on judges taking up post-retirement jobs also found support from the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Vikas Singh who said,
“I don’t agree with BCI letter that CJI Dipak Misra should not take up post-retirement job. The system should not lose the bright judge.“
AG Venugopal’s views on providing more monetary incentives for judges were also echoed when Singh added that judges should be given a full salary even after retirement.
Chief Justice of India-designate, Justice Ranjan Gogoi made a reference to both opinions as he commenced his address. While he did not clearly reveal his views on post-retirement jobs or on increasing monetary incentives for judges, he did make the following cryptic remark,
“I listened to Attorney General and SCBA President. The truth is somewhere in between.”
Whatever be his views on these subjects, Justice Gogoi also proceeded to observe that ultimately, the system has done well despite all odds.
Outgoing Chief Justice Misra offered an equally intriguing remark in his speech, throwing up questions when he said,
“I don’t depart with good bye, I will say we will meet again.”
Perhaps he meant to express a sense of hope that his camaraderie with the legal fraternity would continue beyond his retirement, perhaps he meant that he was not disinclined to take up a post-retirement job. Only time will tell.